Going the extra mile


SIX ROCHESTER AREA WOMEN WHO KEEP ON GOING Over the last 11 years, RochesterWomen has honored extraordinary women. Those who have given so much of themselves, in some way, to benefit our community. This year is no exception, from a young woman who, at age 5, gave her birthday gifts to the Ronald McDonald House, to a woman who makes sure a young male dancer has appropriate roles to showcase his love of dance. Each of our six winners truly goes the extra mile.


 JUDGES’ COMMENTS: “Rachel was born to give. I’d like to see what she is like at 40!”

Her great-grandfather gave her the advice, “Put yourself aside and help the less fortunate and you’ll be the richest person in the world.” Rachel took that advice to heart. My husband and I knew when our daughter turned 5 that she had an enormous heart. She requested that, for her birthday party, her friends

bring a gift suitable for donation to charity. When the party was finished she hand delivered the toys to the Ronald McDonald House. This was just the start of her phenomenal compassion and empathy. Rachel has constantly and consistently over the past 10 years given of herself to help others with a smile and without complaint. She has organized bake sales and coordinated numerous volunteers for many charitable organizations. She has assisted with the Gift of Life Transplant House run, sewn and donated over 30 tote bags for sick, less fortunate children and filled them with books and toys, and has worked with the American Cancer Society. She feeds the homeless through the

Interfaith Hospitality Network. Her ideas and goals are endless and her sense of giving to others extraordinary. She strives for excellence in all she does, and she succeeds, all the while holding a 4.0 GPA. She stays active in church, works part time, and helps out at home. Like the Energizer Bunny, she keeps on going. She says she feels “a sense of greatness” when helping others—particularly children with cancer. Rachel has a soft heart for those who are struggling, witnessing her father’ cancer diagnosis in 2004, four classmates, a cousin, grandfather and close friend.

Nominated by: Sharon Goldsmith, Rachel’s mother




JUDGES’ COMMENTS: “Sheila has impacted over 1,200 children in the community and I love the impact she has had on the young boy. She has helped him gain confidence in himself.”

My son has performed in the past three Children’s Dance Theatre productions. As a parent of a young boy who loves to dance, I realized early on it can be difficult to find performance opportunities truly tailored to young boys. I was drawn to CDT as they provided roles specifically for boys. He was led by choreographers who knew how to teach boy dancers. Sheila Sullivan was instrumental in not only encouraging young male cast members but helping to make their roles truly masculine. As a parent volunteer, I became aware of all of Sheila’s talents and how tirelessly she works in sharing with CDT. She has volunteered for 11 years, and in 2014 she will have served as managing director for her seventh production. Sheila has also expanded opportunities for CDT with community outreach, including educational school programs, additional ensemble group performance opportunities and dance intensives for local youth led by professional dancers from Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa and New York. The value is certainly personal for our family, and the impact to our community is great. Due to her effort, last season more than 1,200 school children experienced “Alice in Wonderland” come to life through dance.

Nominated by: Susan Bestgen, parent volunteer with Children’s Dance Theatre




JUDGES’ COMMENTS: “Stephanie is personally invested in her clients; she has a high level of commitment to her clients that transcends her business. She goes above and beyond what her job is and this makes her an extraordinary caregiver.”

 Stephanie Kruger is a very valued resource for our company, Vocational Rehabilitation Services, which assists disabled youth and adults in securing suitable employment, and our customers. One of my co-workers recently said to me, “Stephanie is far and away our most effective placement specialist.” Stephanie is always very thorough in her work and presents her services to our customers in a friendly and professional manner. She always takes the time to learn as much as possible about the clients’ employment aspirations while painting a realistic picture for them of the placement process. She is very thoughtful in her analysis of the job market and extremely effective in helping to provide the tools and strategies our customers need to become successfully employed. She often sits patiently with our customers for hours, laboriously sifting through job leads and personally transporting customers (many of whom do not have adequate transportation) to job sites to pick up and drop off applications. She does whatever it takes to foster successful outcomes. Stephanie takes it personally when she is unable to get someone hired within 90 days, regardless of the severity of the disability, but she is all smiles when she can share in someone’s success story.

Nominated by: Jeff Larson, Vocational Rehabilitation Services




 JUDGES’ COMMENTS: “I’m impressed that Jennifer was starting up a business and was able to continue running it while dealing with the issues with her son. I have heard so many good things about Rainbow Cafe. I am eager to go there and support her.” Five years ago Jennifer ( Jen) Richards and her husband, Jeremy Olson, both trained chefs, bought the Rainbow Cafe in Pine Island. Their vision was lofty, taking a small-town cafe into the world of a destination gourmet restaurant with a farm-to-table experience. The creativity, time and energy Jen has given to this endeavor is endless: long days and late nights, figuring out how to make the right cake for the perfect wedding and how to successfully set up a princess party for a 4-year-old. Not to mention finding the right beer and wine pairings for the day’s meal and shopping the local farmers market for the perfect vegetables, finding the right farmer for the healthiest meat and cheese. All the while hiring and training staff, catering events, keeping the books…and raising a beautiful son with autism. Jen continues to manage her incredibly active life (even through a fractured ankle last year). She is determined to give her son the best life and opportunities possible and is determined to continue to enhance the restaurant to be the culinary experience she and her husband have dreamed of. Jen’s passion for her child and her culinary dream fill each day and only enhance her love of life.

Nominated by: Mary Richards, Jennifer’s mother




 JUDGES’ COMMENTS: “Mary does a lot and doesn’t expect a lot in return. She provides the personal touch that people need.”

Volunteering is not always an easy job, and so many times the contributions go unrecognized. Mary Hanson proves volunteering is making a difference in the lives of so many people. We are lucky to have her in our community. For Mary, a day isn’t complete if she hasn’t accomplished something for someone else. When she joined the Rochester Senior Center, she probably didn’t know what she was getting herself into. Center members realized early on that Mary was a leader. She leads the center’s quilting group, and because of her leadership she has helped countless people in need receive a new quilt to keep them warm. Mary has also worked with the Crisis Nursery, other non-profits, and the school district. If you have purchased something from the St. Francis rummage sale, Mary has probably had her hands on it. She also is the volunteer chair for the Rochester Senior Center’s annual rummage sale and last year helped raise almost $10,000 for the center. She has also kept Mayo Clinic’s standards of excellence by being a welcoming presence to the patients and visitors through their volunteer program. As a former health field professional Mary understands just how important it is to make someone feel comfortable, no matter the reason for the visit to the clinic. The community is fortunate to have someone like Mary who shares her time, talents and experience. She is helping to teach new generations the importance of giving and helping others.

Nominated by: Rachel Peterson, former marketing and volunteer coordinator at Rochester Senior Center


 JUDGES’ COMMENTS: “ Chrisanne has had an impact on Rochester in many ways. Her energy shows in the impressive growth of the LIFE program. She has made many lives better for the seniors in the community.”

I have participated in a number of volunteer organizations in my life, but I have never served on a board with a staff director as enthusiastic, thoughtful, collaborative and sensitive as Chrisanne Pieper. As the RCTC Senior Program Director of LIFE (Learning is ForEver), she works with board members to create an academic enrichment program for older adults that stands above other similar programs in the state. Chrisanne combines the warmth of friendship with the professionalism and creativity needed to manage a large and varied education program. Her “let’s try it and see what happens” attitude is what has made the program’s growth such a success. She understands the complex need for mental stimulation and socialization people require for healthy aging. With her guidance, LIFE provides the opportunities to keep older minds sharp and provides a sense of belonging and staying connected. In her work at RCTC, she generally has a work-study student to help her, but Chrisanne sees this as an opportunity to mentor them. She is a positive role model for the students, and they respect her. Chrisanne also manages the successful Rochester school district’s Adult Enrichment Program. She annually blends the two programs for several very successful theater and concert trips to the Twin Cities. Perhaps her core strength to the programs she leads is her passion for the needs of older adults. Chrisanne recognizes what today’s active and inquisitive older adults want and can do.

Nominated by: Priscilla Russellwho serves on LIFE board with Chrisanne